It takes a certain kind of person to find joy out of leaving all of their creature comforts that they have worked so hard for behind and pursue a life of adventure. These days it seems to be a growing trend to leave it all behind, move into a van, and hit the road. While this is awfully romantic, what does it really feel like? Well, I decided to try it out. Now mind you, I understand that my ten day trip is no where near what the true #vanlife die hards do, however I had always wanted a taste. I got a taste.
Im currently in Sydney working coaching bands and managed to get 10 days off. I decided on a route north covering around 1,600 miles round trip that would hit most of my “to-do” list in Australia. While Australia is one of the more expensive countries, I came to the conclusion this would be as good a time as any to try out the van. After doing some research online with rental companies in the Sydney area, the main three being Britz, Apollo, and Around Australia Motorhomes (AAM), I settled on Around Australia Motorhomes. They, like all three, offer a hi-top van that consists of a table that folds down into a bed, microwave (which is cheating if you ask me so I never even plugged it in), mini fridge (because who doesn’t love a cold one after a surf), stove and sink. The two things that AAM offered me that the other two didn’t was a better price and a better pick up/drop off location for my needs.
Located in Thornleigh, just north of Sydney right off the M1 was the perfect easy launching point to head north without dealing with Sydney traffic. Located back in an industrial park on the backside of a two story building, they run a very efficient and proper business. Upon arrival all of the motorhomes and vans were clean, ready to go, and the staff was very accommodating as well. Even to the point of offering to pick me up from the train station that was only a 15 minute walk away anyways. After arriving and settling up on paperwork, I hopped in the van, attempting to not forget to drive on the left side of the road, and off I went with surfboard in tow.
Day one: Sydney to Seal Rocks.
For my first two nights I decided to stay at Seal Rocks which is located about three hours up the coast in Myall Lakes National Park. On the way up however is a small town called Morriset. It has being internationally famous for being one of the easiest places to interact with kangaroos in the wild. The kangaroos roam free in the fields and forests around the hospital there and are quite friendly with visitors. I stopped in town at the grocery store for some carrots to feed them not knowing their taste buds that day weren’t too keen on carrots and much preferred bananas. Picky buggars I tell you. (Side note: please be a responsible human and research what foods are dangerous and what foods are fine for kangaroos to eat. Bread is a big no!) Anyways, I found getting there a bit odd. The turn off has signs warning road closure, hospital property, the works, and after driving down for a few minutes not seeing another soul, it felt to me like a road I was not suppose to drive down. Figuring I could pull the lost American card if I did run into disgruntled hospital staff, I decided to keep going towards the kangaroo promise land. Sure enough, I rounded a corner and there were people with cars parks and kangaroos abundant in the field just off to the left. I parked the van, grabbed the carrots, and went galavanting off into what was to me, Australia’s wildlife version of Willy Wonka’s factory.
In my mind, approaching wild kangaroo’s wouldn’t be as daunting of a task as it proved to be. While they are not hostile animals, I have seen them kick and while my bucket list is quite long, thats not on it. There were some adults and some younger smaller ones who seemed to be a bit more interested in hanging out with the humans than their older compadres. I slowly approached one of the smaller ones with the carrot out front until he hopped away clearly not interested in the carrot and b-lined for someone with a banana. This happened with the next three to four roo’s until I approached one who seemed a bit more interested. Crouched down to their level, I stayed, holding out the carrot, and let her come to me. She slowly walked right up, took a bite out of the carrot and then all apprehensions faded away. While munching away at the carrot, she let me pet her back, scratch her belly, rub behind the ears and everything. I found her mannerisms to be very similar to a dog in respect to how she reacted to each scratch and rub. After nibbling down most of the carrot, a friendly tourist from China came up and gave me the rest of their banana’s as they had to leave the park. After I had spent the past twenty minutes playing and feeding this kangaroo, I became a bit peckish myself and decided the banana looked good, however Im always keen to share.
After the banana was gone and she had had enough play time, she slowly hopped off back into the woods. Walking out back to the van I passed the biggest one there and as I passed he showed very clear signs he did not want to make any friends, so I thought I’d take a picture from a few feet back as not to further disturb or stress him. After backing up and acknowledging he was the boss, he relaxed back into his mid day lie down.
It was an incredible experience that I would absolutely recommend to anyone. However, while Im no kangaroo expert nor do I claim to be, its pretty obvious what they like and don’t like. Please only bring food that will not hurt them such as carrots or bananas. Please do not harass them if they don’t feel like hanging out. Please be respectful of them and their space, let them come to you and enjoy what special interactions you do have.
The rest of the drive to Seal Rocks was rather uneventful. Upon arriving at the town I found that there is no bar or restaurant at Seal Rocks. Luckily I had brought food with me but just a heads up if you plan to go there. Unfortunately the surf was flat, so an evening beach walk it was, and stunning it was.
Stay tuned and check back for day two!
All photos copyright Nate Beck.